Uruguay through the eyes of a Swede

I have now lived in Colonia, Uruguay for the last month and it is truly beautiful in many ways. I’m talking about the friendliness of the people, the amazing architecture and rich culture. Mary’s hometown is small but makes up for that in charm. Everybody knows everybody; we didn’t even make it out of the airport before Mary said hi to an acquaintance. That is also how long it took for me to make my first mistake being part of the Uruguayan culture. People always shake hands when they first meet right.
Flip flops and mate in uruguay

Kissing on the cheek is, according to me, is a quite intimate way of greeting another person. Here in Uruguay, it is the preferred way. Mary knows many people in Colonia and I have therefor, kissed many cheeks. It is just a culture thing that took some getting used to, especially growing up in Sweden where we usually greet each other in quite cold ways. But it is hard to understand the unwritten rules.  Meeting aunt I understand it’s a kiss on the cheek, but if it’s her brother or a friend of hers 5-year-old kid. You’re probably thinking to yourself that it’s easy just to lay back and see what people do and yes, that is the correct solution. When in doubt though, cheek kiss.

Mate is bigger than coffee and tea in Uruguay. Sure it is kind of like a tea but definitely its own thing as well. People on the street carry their cup and thermos filled with hot water around everywhere. That’s both their arms occupied, I do not understand how that is not too inconvenient for people. Personally, I have never been a huge fan of tea but I will learn to love this one day.

My Spanish skills are still quite lacking so I’m relying on Mary a lot. But there is much communication I can muster with gestures, context and my level of Spanish. I am proud to say that I often keep up what people are talking about and do sneak in a comment every once in a while. The mistakes I make are learning experiences and also at times, very funny. At the dinner table, I said that I couldn’t eat more because I was Chinese. Or when I said I my face was read not because of the sun, but because I was pregnant.

Colonia has some nice beaches looking over a huge river which produces some of the world’s most beautiful sunsets. Therefore I found it very odd that the first time we met Mary’s friend we decided to have some pastries and tea on the sidewalk of the street literally a stone throw away from the water. That is not just Mary and her friends making that decision, that’s where most Uruguayans like to hang out. “Rambla” translates to the street next to the ocean/water, they need a specific term for that street because that’s where people hang out.

Everyone has dogs and there are dogs everywhere. Mary’s family have three of the sweetest dogs ever. I love the fact that everywhere you go you may run into a new fluffy monster to pet. It just gets a bit loud. The neighbor’s dogs, our dogs, and stray dogs like to communicate with each other.

All and all we’ve had a great experience in Uruguay so far and I look forward to the rest. Would you like to read Mary describes Sweden? click here.

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